So, Green – interviewing Durant for Bleacher Report – asked Durant about Durant’s final season with the Warriors, 2018-19.
In my opinion, after year two, you were over it. You were done with it, and you were onto the next thing. But we had the opportunity to three-peat. And in my mind, what brought you back to Golden State for year three was just the opportunity to three-peat. But it didn’t feel right for you no more. Am I right, wrong?
That’s interesting, because a lot of people – that’s just the talk around me the last few years. And I get what people are saying, because, before I got to Golden State, I was just happy-go-lucky, just bright-eyed to the experience, not knowing what was ahead.
I knew exactly what my role was and I locked on it with so much focus and determination to not f*** around every day. And you seen it. From workouts to practices, shootarounds, film, I was super locked in.
It made people on the outside look at me like, “Hold on, is he enjoying this?” When I dive into something like that, with that level of focus, I don’t want to be anywhere else in life. That’s the most enjoyable experience I ever had, after that first one.
If that was the case, I wouldn’t have played 78 games that year. I would’ve just waited to the end of the season and tried to play in the playoffs. I played every game. I went hard every day. I cared about every matchup, no matter who was on the floor.
Just my look didn’t feel as energetic or opening as it was before. And I like that. I like that I was closed off and focused on my work.
I just maybe should have communicated that with more people who were interested in knowing what I was going through. But I had the most fun locking in and completing the task, because I knew we was going to lock in every night.
Durant and Kyrie Irving reportedly decided before the 2018-19 season to team up the following offseason. By signing a 1+1 rather than a financially advantageous 2+1 contract in 2018, Durant tipped his hand. Durant himself said he decided midway through the 2018-19 season to leave Golden State.
Which created an incredibly awkward situation.
Durant’s uncertain status was a cloud hanging over the Warriors. That’s not exactly the fault of Durant, who was just exercising his right to explore free agency. It was probably unavoidable. But it was awkward.
Durant apparently coped by altering his approach. In addition to his heated argument with Green, Durant repeatedly publicly disagreed with Golden State coach Steve Kerr. Durant stopped talking to the media then lashed out at them. The Warriors definitely noticed Durant’s mood change.
Could Durant have handled that better? Even he says yes.
But, again, there was no way to completely avoid the uncomfortable situation. Durant’s impending free agency assured that.
As Durant said, he proved his devotion to the 2018-19 Warriors on the court – all the way to the end. That ought to buy him plenty of benefit of the doubt.
In this era of player movement and superstars becoming de facto corporations that take years of planning to relocate, Durant won’t be the last player navigating this predicament. There are far worse ways to handle it. Really, Durant did pretty well overall given the circumstances.
This should serve as both a model and lesson for the next star in those shoes.